Sep 27, 2011

A Drop of Golden Sun

I completely forgot to mention that last week at Stake Conference I ran into the Morgans from the Los Alamos Ward.  I saw Sister Morgan there, and when I went to talk to her, I realized she was talking to Becca, another girl in my study abroad group.  Turns out Sister Morgan and Becca are cousins!  Small world.

Okay, so last Monday I went home on my own because Kendal was off doing something else.  We have this little cafe with a green sign that we use as our reference point to get off the bus.  However, it was really hard to see out of the S-bahn windows because it was dark and raining so hard.  I saw a green sign, got out, realized I was at the wrong stop, but at that point, the S-bahn had left me.  So I stood in the rain and got soaking wet while I waited for the next one.  Turns out my stop was the next one, so I could have just walked... But it was pretty funny!

Last Wednesday, our group left on a five day bus trip to Salzburg, Munich, Haag, and other places.  Our first stop was Mauthausen.  Mauthausen was a concentration camp during WWII, and was intended to cause "death by labor."  The prisoners in Mauthausen were starved, living on only an average of 250 calories per day.  During the day the prisoners were forced to work in a huge rock quarry, carrying the rocks up an enormous staircase, as they were pushed beyond their limits by the guards.  Going to Mauthausen was a very sobering experience.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what the prisoners here had to suffer and endure, it is truly terrible.  As I walked where these tortured prisoners walked, I felt sorrow and complete horror for what these people had experienced.  How can humans be so cruel to one another?  We watched a video before touring the concentration camp, and at one point it was describing the graffiti on the prison walls.  One prisoner had written, "If there is a God, He is going to have to beg for my forgiveness."  How truly heartbreaking.  What these prisoners had to endure would no doubt shake their faith in a higher being.  They had to wonder what kind of God could let such cruel things occur.  Sometimes it's hard to remember that our Heavenly Father sent each and everyone of us to earth to exercise our agency, whether for good or evil.  Our Heavenly Father loves every single one of those people who endured the tortures at Mauthausen, and I know he wept at the treatment of his precious children.  I fervently believe that He welcomed and embraced them in his arms, praising their strength for what they suffered.  I will never even be able to begin to imagine the pains and sufferings of the Mauthausen prisoners, but I'm so grateful for a loving Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ who died for us so that we could live with Him again.

Mauthausen Gate

A memorial to those who died at Mauthausen

The rock quarry.  It would be beautiful but for the horrific events that occurred here.

The prisoners were forced to carry every stone up these stairs,
though they were sick and starved

After Mauthausen, our trip destinations were of a lighter caliber.  We went to Salzburg and visited some of the sites where Sound of Music was filmed.  We got to see where Maria was married, in Mondsee Cathedral.  We also saw the gazebo where Rolfe and Leisl sang "I Am Sixteen," and the front of the "Von Trap" house, as well as some of the sites where Maria and the children sang "Do-Re-Mi."  It was pretty great!

 In Salzburg, we went to Hellbrunn Castle.  When the castle was built, it was built with all kinds of "water pranks." For example, there was a stone table in the gardens with stone chairs surrounding it.  But, there were holes in the chairs where water could be squirted through, so if you sat on the chair, you could quite possibly get a very wet butt.  Frau Schauer warned us about that before we went there, but a few of our group members sat on the chairs anyway, it was great!  Pretty sure, I would have been best friends with these people if I had lived back then!

After Hellbrunn Castle, we went to Obersalzburg Castle.  It fulfilled my lifelong dream of visiting a castle (Hellbrunn didn't look so much like a castle to me).  I got some great pictures, and the view from the castle was fantastic.

We went on a walking tour of the Mirabell gardens.  The gardens are super pretty.  After Obersalzburg we went back to the gardens, and there was an orchestra playing a concert.  They were really good, and it was nice to just relax and listen to them play.

Mondsee Cathedral

The inside of Mondsee Cathedral

Hellbrunn Castle

The water chairs at Hellbrunn!


"Von Trap" family house

Mirabell Gardens, some scenes from Sound of Music were filmed here!

Mirabell Gardens

Probably the prettiest cemetery I have ever been to

View from Obersalzburg


After Salzburg we went to a hotel in Irschenberg, Germany.  It was in the countryside and it was so beautiful!  Refreshing after being in the city for a while!  Irshcenberg is about an hour away from Munich, so that's where we went on Friday.  We went to the Deutsches Museum (the most visited museum in Germany).  It was pretty interesting, but it was all very technical.  The one thing I loved was the satellites and computers showing the weather in different areas.  It was pretty neat.

In Munich we also got to see the world's largest Glockenspiel.  Not quite as interesting as I had hoped, but it was still pretty cool.

Oh! And I bought a dirndl in Munich.  A dirndl is a traditional Austrian/German dress.  About half of the girls in our group bought one, and we toured Herrenchimsee Palace in them.  They are way cute!

Our hotel in Irschenberg

At our hotel in Irschenberg, wearing my dirndl!

At the Deutsches Museum

The Rathaus and Glockenspiel

On Saturday we took a ferry and went to Herrenchiemsee Island and toured the palace.  Our professor actually conducted the tour.  Turns out he spent four months doing tour guides there when he was younger!  The palace was beautiful, but we weren't allowed to take pictures which is a shame. 

After Herrenchiemsee we went to Eagle's Nest in the Alps.  Oh my goodness the view was PHENOMENAL!  I could have stayed up there for hours just enjoying weather and the beauty of the mountains.  It's definitely my favorite place I've been so far.

Half of the group getting ready for the ferry ride



Eagle's Nest

Haag was my favorite place we stayed our whole trip.  It's a small country town in Austria, and it was beautiful. 

This study abroad experience is seriously the best ever.  I'm so happy and grateful to be here!  I'll try to keep my future posts shorter, with less writing and more pictures!  Enjoy :)

Sep 18, 2011

Haben Sie Internet?

So, Kendal and I have just been assuming for the last week that we don't have internet in our house.  Yesterday we actually asked her if she had WiFi, and lo and behold, she does.  This recent development will hopefully make things go much more smoothly in the future!  We'll actually be able to get our professor's emails when the information is relevant, and I'll be able to (hopefully) keep up  with my blog and posting pictures.

On Thursday, I woke up to a freezing cold shower.  It was so cold I would forget to breathe, and the whole time I was thinking, "What if this is how it's going to be everyday.  I can't handle this EVERY day!!"  Luckily the problem had to do with the remodeling going on in the house across the street and was easily resolved.  The water is nice and warm now!

Class doesn't start until noon on Thursdays, so a few of us spent the half our before German, playing Go Fish.  Buuut, we tried to speak only in German.  Needless to say, it was quite entertaining!  Right now, our German class is mostly review, but we'll start getting into new information soon.  When we first got here, it was so strange to see and hear EVERYTHING in German, but this past week it has become normal not to understand anything someone says to me.  I'm able to pick out more and more words and phrases, and that gives me hope!  Hopefully, I won't be completely incompetent with my German the whole time I'm here!

For our Austrian History class, we took a walk around Vienna.  Our professor took us to see a few different sites, but the one I enjoyed the most was Ruprechtskirche, the oldest church in Vienna.  After class, our professor showed us her favorite place to get gelatto, and I ordered mine all in GERMAN!  I was super psyched.  I mean, not that ordering ice cream is particularly difficult, but I was pleased with that minor accomplishment!  Kendal were both out with different people that night, so I got the chance to go home all by myself! Again, minor accomplishment, but now I know I can do it if I need to.

Friday was the first day since we've been here that we've actually been able to just relax and do what we want.  About half our group went to Budapest (where I would love to go at some point during my stay here), and the rest of us just stayed in Vienna, so we decided to go to Schönbrunn Palace.  And we spent hours there just in the gardens and at Gloriette, which stands on the hill behind the palace.  We didn't actually tour the palace, since it costs money and we'll be coming back with our group later to do that.  Schönbrunn's gardens are absolutely beautiful, and the view of Vienna from the hill behind it is phenomenal.  I definitely can't wait to go back!

On Friday we also went to Kiersten and Lindsay's house, and the view from their back balcony is gorgeous!  They live out in District 14, so it's at the edge of the city, so there are less buildings and much more greenery.  Oh yeah, and Kendal and I live in District 13.  For those of you that have read the Hunger Games, doesn't that totally remind you of the books!

We got to sleep in on Saturday!  It was nice not having a set schedule we needed to adhere to for one.  A few of us went to the Naschmarkt, Vienna's liveliest market.  The Naschmarkt leads into a flea market, where I bought a few European scarves, along with a Spain soccer jersey.  It's kind of fun to barter with the sellers!

After the flea market, we went to our professor's apartment so he could show us how to use the city bikes.  The way it's set up to use them is pretty cool.  There are bike stations all around the city, with machines so you can take a bike (the first hour is free, and every hour after that is 1 Euro), ride it, and then dock it at any other station in the city.  So this is how our adventure started.  We tried to use the bike station and machine right by our professor's apartment, but it wasn't working, so we took the U-bahn to a different station.  It took a while for us all to get set up with accounts and everything, but once we did, we each got a bike and we rode back to our professor's apartment.  (We could still dock our bikes there, even though the machine itself wasn't working).  There was a problem, though.  When we got to the bike station, there was only one spot left to park a bike!  The rest of us didn't want to pay for the next hour, so our professor called someone about it, and they just told us we should probably book it to the next station with five open spots.  At least the guy told him where it was, and it was only about six blocks away... but we only had six minutes to get there!  One thing I forgot to mention is the crazy traffic and driver's here in the city.  Also, bikes are counted as vehicles, so we get to ride our bikes IN the crazy traffic.  It was awesome, a race against time while flirting with death to get to the next bike station.  I loved it!  We all rode as fast as we could and got there with a minute to spare.  It was awesome!

Yesterday we had church (Stake Conference) outside of the city, so we took a train to get there.  That was pretty fun.  After church we went back to the Minert's apartment.  We all have different Sundays in which we're supposed to cook dinner for the group, and yesterday was Kendal's and my turn.  We made a classic American meal - chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans, with chocolate cookies for dessert.  It was fun getting to cook!  We watched the Sound of Music afterward, and our professor pointed out during the movie which places we are going to get to see this week in Salzburg.  It's going to be great!

So, trying to get pictures to upload onto my blog takes quite a bit of time, so here are a select few of the pictures I've taken over the past few days.  I may post the rest on facebook at some point.  Enjoy!

Schönbrunn Palace


This is not Ruprechtskirche, but it's in the same part of the city

The view from Kiersten and Lindsay's balcony

Other pictures of the beautiful city of Wien!